A product can’t work without text, and yet UX copy continues to be one of the most overlooked, least streamlined parts of the workflow—and this often results in errors.
In this post, we focus on copy errors in the source language only (mostly English). Translation errors are a different story, with a different level of complexity, and deserve their own post, which we will publish in the future.
The effect of copy errors
Errors have an impact on both users and internal teams. For users, copy errors can make a product look less professional or trustworthy, affecting the user experience. For the teams creating the product, errors are a real annoyance—they’re hard to chase down and stay on top of, they result in the product not looking the way it was designed to look, and fixing them leads to even more work in a workflow that’s already bursting at the seams.
We’ve seen and heard of copy errors in all different types of products:
In the following example from a freelance management platform, “on-time” should be “on time,” “Le’ts” should be “Let’s,” and “messenger” is misspelled.
In this example from a mobile app where you can rent spaces by the hour, it should say “Sarah typically responds within 48 hrs.”
In this example from a smart refrigerator’s display, “avocado” is misspelled.
In the first example below from the dating app OKCupid, it should say “I want to date… Women” (instead of “Woman), and in the second, “with” is missing the w at the beginning.
Why are copy errors in production so common?
A variety of factors contribute to copy errors making their way into products and not being caught and/or fixed easily:
UX writers don’t always have access to spellcheckers
When working directly on the design, UX writers may miss typos or errors that they make if they don’t have a spell-checking plugin or other add-on installed. In some cases, spellcheckers aren’t adequate—for example, they may not work fast enough to catch the errors while the writer is moving quickly through the screens. These errors then get “pushed” down the development pipeline without being caught, thus making their way into the product.
Incorporating the UX copy into the code is a very manual process
In order for the UX copy to appear in the product, developers typically have to copy and paste the strings into the code individually by hand, which leaves lots of room for human error and for unwanted additions to slip in without being noticed.
Developers don’t always have the latest version of the copy
When there isn’t a clear process or workflow surrounding product copy, developers may not immediately know where to turn to find the copy they need to insert. This means they can end up working off of old or unapproved versions of the copy without knowing it.
It takes a lot of effort—usually involving many different team members—to fix copy errors once they’re in place
Even if an error has been identified, fixing it isn’t just a matter of typing in the correct text. To fix a copy error, multiple people need to be involved, including the designer, UX writer, product manager, and development team. And since all of these people are busy enough as it is and there often isn’t clear enough communication around the process for correcting errors, fixing swiftly moves to the bottom of the priority list, where it is likely to remain.
How can you avoid copy errors in your product?
Copy errors may be the default now, but they don’t have to be. Here are a few ways to streamline your UX writing creation and implementation process to prevent errors going forward:
Start using a product copy management tool
A dedicated product copy management tool ensures that everyone working on a product is on the same page with regard to the copy. It makes collaboration between UX writers, product managers, designers, developers, and localization teams a breeze, including making it easy to review and give feedback on the copy, and ensures that developers never work off of old, outdated versions of the copy. Similarly, they can help developers see exactly which copy changes have been made, rather than have to search through comments to find them. Copy management tools serve as a single source of truth with regard to the UX copy, and they ensure that there’s a clear process and workflow in place as relates to the copy (and translations).
Build a copy library
Using copy management tools, you can also create and maintain a systemized copy library that allows your whole team to access all the approved copy, including error messages, buttons, tooltips, and empty states, easily. With a copy library in place, you can reuse approved copy directly in the designs, so you don’t have to write repeat texts over and over again from scratch, reducing the likelihood of errors.
Make sure you’re using a grammar and spell checker
Whether the writer is working directly in the design tool or not, there are lots of different spell-checking solutions available, such as Grammarly and the Figma plugins SPELLL and Spellchecker, which all add a layer of review where there might not otherwise be one.
Connect the design and the code
As long as developers are copying and pasting strings of UX copy into the code, errors are bound to occur. That’s why it’s important to move towards connecting the design and the code and automating the developer handoff process.
It starts with a single source of truth
Frontitude serves as a single source of truth for your UX copy, providing everything you need to make sure that your copy goes into the product the way you intended it. Frontitude checks spelling as UX writers enter their copy. It also enables UX writers and other team members to build a library of approved Copy Components and then reuse them easily, ensuring that repeat strings of text are inserted correctly every time, without errors slipping in.
Frontitude's developer CLI is an efficient way to connect the design phase with the development phase and apply copy changes to the codebase. With this integration, developers can receive updated product copy directly from the design or localization teams, instead of having to hunt for changes or comments in the design tool. This saves developers a lot of time and significantly reduces mistakes in production.
Moreover, teams working on a product don’t have to rush to finalize the copy at an early stage, since it’s possible to make updates and changes later on with a single command, without having to mobilize a whole team.
Copy errors are a pesky nuisance that too many teams have grown to tolerate in products. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With efficient workflows and the right tools in place, copy errors can be avoided, leading to a better, more consistent user experience and a better experience for the people creating these products.
Want to streamline your process of creating and implementing UX copy? Give Frontitude's Developer CLI a try for free!